One thing before I start:
Where does T.O. get off challenging the Pats' secondary and Randy Moss? Does he have any idea that he's about to hop on the Rodney Harrison express train? Also, does Randy Moss need any more motivation this year? If so, the other #81 definitely helped fuel the fire. Owens is such a jerk, and I hope everyone in Patriots nation throws their collective popcorn at the TV on an Owens sighting...idiot!
Ok, down to what matters:
A Texas-Sized Showdown For The Patriots
“My Lord, whatever I done, don't strike me blind for another couple of minutes.” ~Cool Hand Luke
Here is what to expect in the New England/Dallas game on Sunday:
- 14-4 on the road
- 7-1 vs. NFC opponents
- 4-4 when the over/under is above 47.5
- 22-6 on turf
- 13-3 when favored by between 3.5 and 9.5
- 3-3 straight up when under-dogged by between 3.5 and 9.5 (current line: NE -6)
- 2-1 when the over/under is above 47.5
- 11-7 after a road game
- 11-7 at home
- 7-3 vs. AFC opponents
Last Meeting: 11/16/03: New England 12, Dallas 0 (Gillette Stadium)
Interesting Fact: The last time two 5-0 teams faced each other was in 2004, when the Patriots beat the Jets 13-7 at Foxboro.
43.1 % (22ND)
OPP. TOTAL YARDS/GAME
OPP. 3RD DOWN
OPP. 4TH DOWN
OPP. SCORING EFFICIENCY
Opponents Grades & Analysis:
With Terry Glenn out of the lineup, Tony Romo has relied on the combination of Terrell Owens and Jason Witten to shoulder most of the load on the passing side. Romo has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre, and yes, Tom Brady. Romo has put up stellar numbers this year, averaging over 300 yards per contest. However, as seen last week, he is prone to taking too many chances. While he stayed conservative most of the year, Romo came undone in Buffalo, throwing five picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Owens once again has stirred the pot, challenging both the Patriots secondary and “the other #81,” Randy Moss. It will be interesting to see how the Pats handle Owens. Likely, Asante Samuel or Ellis Hobbs will try and “chip” him at the line, while Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison will be the over-the-top help. While Owens gets double-teamed, it sets up Witten to go over the middle and matchup with a linebacker in single coverage. This is why Witten is currently 4th in the NFC in yards with 407.
MARION BARBER III
The Cowboys have done a tremendous job revamping this offensive line, which was downright awful just a few years ago. Now, they are one of the strongest units in the game. Dallas, like so many teams, employs a two-running back system, with this one being one of the better ones around. Barber is a more of a “between the tackles” type of back while Jones still likes to bounce the ball outside and make plays down the sideline. For the Patriots, the key will be to get penetration up the middle. While the Patriots normally have a 3-4 base defense, I expect them to also use some 4-3 to combat the size of the Cowboy line, which is very reminiscent of the Dallas line from the Super Bowl seasons of the 90s.
The defensive line for the Cowboys can stuff some holes, but without great linebacking play, the front three would be in serious trouble. The status of Laurence Maroney remains unknown, but given Sammy Morris’ success over the past two games, the Cowboys will definitely be tested to try and contain the running game. The linebackers are excellent, and it of course includes DeMarcus Ware, who is one of the fastest and most versatile linebackers in the league. Ware will line up both at the OLB spot and also on the outside of the D-Line. The Patriots will have their hands full trying to stop Ware from getting into the backfield and stopping a play behind the line.
This is where the Cowboys could be in trouble. Despite the fact that they obviously have talent in their secondary, they simply haven’t gone up against anything like New England’s pass offense, and that will continue to be a theme when the Patriots take on a new opponent each week. Hamlin is an upgrade from last year, and Roy Williams is one of the better safeties in the league, but both are prone to bite on play fakes, and both tend to go overboard to make the big hit or big play. This leaves them incredibly vulnerable, especially when they guess wrong, as usually, it becomes a big play for the offense. Terrance Newman will play in this game, and they needed him badly to take on either Randy Moss or Donte’ Stallworth on the sideline. However, the Anthony Henry injury will be a killer. Look for Brady and Co. to target Jones all game long.
When New England Has The Ball:
RUSHING FIRST DOWNS
PASSING FIRST DOWNS
Advantage: New England
When Dallas Has The Ball:
RUSHING FIRST DOWNS
PASSING FIRST DOWNS
Advantage: New England (slightly)
Matchup Of The Game: DeMarcus Ware vs. Matt Light
For the Cowboys to remain undefeated and win this game, they are going to have to get pressure on both the running game and Tom Brady. DeMarcus Ware is one of the most electrifying defensive players you will see, and is very destructive to an offense’s game plan. When Ware is speed-rushing from the outside, it will be Matt Light’s responsibility to at least slow Ware down to give the running backs an opportunity to get out of the backfield, and give Brady time to either get rid of the ball, or elude the pressure that the defense will be bringing. If Ware records some sacks and tackles for losses in the early going, the crowd will feed off of that, and it will put the Pats on the ropes early, which is not a good position for a team that has only been losing for a few minutes this year.
- Laurence Maroney: Questionable (groin)
- Randall Gay: Questionable (thigh)
- Donte’ Stallworth: Questionable (knee)
- Adalius Thomas: Limited in practice (ankle)
- Asante Samuel: Limited in practice (foot)
- Terry Glenn: Out (Knee)
- Anthony Henry: Out (Ankle)
- Courtney Brown: Out (Biceps)
- Keith Davis: Questionable (Shoulder)
- Kevin Burnett: Limited in practice (Thigh)
New England Keys To Victory:
1. Attack The Dallas Secondary: With Henry out, Dallas is just going to have to try and limit the amount of catches made by New England wide receivers. With the five-headed receiving monster, it will be tough for the Cowboys to keep tabs on all of them. While they will likely initially double Randy Moss, Brady will be looking for Stallworth, Welker, and Watson first to set up Moss on later drives. One thing is for certain: When all is said and done, Randy Moss will leave his mark on this game.
2. Stop The Run Early: If the Pats allow Barber and Jones to get going, it could be a long day for the New England D. It will be tough to get through the line to make plays in the backfield, so the linebackers are really going to have to step up and make tackles to limit the amount of yardage these guys can get. The Pats are the best in the league at stopping teams on third down, so putting Dallas in third-and-medium-to-long yardage situations will be critical to slow this high-powered offense down.
3. An Effective Offensive Line: This unit is probably the most unheralded bunch in the NFL. Brady has been sacked twice all year. Only giving up two sacks in five games is a phenomenal feat, and these guys are a big reason why the Pats have put up 30+ points in every game this year. They will have their hands full when Wade Phillips starts using different blitz schemes to get to Brady behind the line. It will be a big challenge for the line, but given their past, it is a challenge they will likely welcome. If Brady puts up the kind of stats against Dallas that he has in his first five games, this line should shoot right to the top in terms of the best in the league.
Dallas Keys To Victory:
1. Not Asking Tony Romo To Do Too Much: Romo, for the most part, is a fairly good decision maker, but if pressure is applied to him, or Dallas is down by a big deficit, all bets are off. Romo has got to stay away from trying to do more than he has to. What he needs to do is find T.O. in single coverage, or find a mismatch on Jason Witten, and exploit that. If Owens is being doubled, why take a chance against one of the better secondaries in the league? If Romo throws more than two interceptions, the Cowboys are going to lose this game.
2. Establish The Run Early And Often: To cut down on the amount of mistakes Romo can make, Dallas needs to use their talented offensive line to create holes for their two-back system to rack up yards. Once a running game is established, you will notice the safeties begin to start cheating in in an attempt to read the play. This is when play action is at its most effective point. Now, with the safeties off-balance, the deep ball can be instituted, and Owens will likely be in man-to-man coverage, which does not favor the Patriots no matter who is covering him.
3. Special Teams: Without Nick Folk’s heroics last week, this game would have much less significance than it has right now. Folk showed that he is deadly accurate, and if this game does become close, he could be called upon to settle the game, and if last week was any indication, he certainly can do the job. Also, kickoff and punt coverage will be a big part in limiting the amount of good field position the Pats start off with. The Cowboys got burned on a Terrance McGee kickoff return for a TD, and if they give Ellis Hobbs or Wes Welker time and space to create, it could be déjà vu all over again.
Game Time: 4:15 (CBS), Texas Stadium, Dallas, TX
This should be a fun weekend. I hope everyone has a safe one and a great one. Take care. Peace.